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Cold-case murder trial testimony begins

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Shams Emil Masters, 34 Shams Emil Masters, 34
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UPDATE: (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - The night William Young II was killed, a witness said she saw Masters leave with Young in a car belonging to a friend of Masters, along with a bag of cocaine. Only Masters and the bag of crack returned, prosecutor Whitney Tharpe said. Defense attorney Melvin Thompson said there was no physical evidence, blood or fibers to connect his client to Young's murder.

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BY DAYNA WORCHEL
dworchel@tylerpaper.com

 
The trial for a man accused in a 1999 Smith County cold murder case begins today in Judge Christie Kennedy's 114th District courtroom.

Shams Emil Masters, 34, who was extradited from a federal prison in Colorado where he was serving time for seven bank robberies, faces up to life in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted of murder, Smith County Assistant District Attorney Whitney Tharpe said Monday.

In February 1999, Masters, then 20, was arrested for the murder of 18-year-old William Thomas Young II, whose body was found face down in a grove of trees on Cedarwood Circle in the Woodlands Estates subdivision in southern Smith County.

"We arrested our suspect back in 1999, and a grand jury did indict him, but upon further investigation, the case was dismissed by the former District Attorney (Jack Skeen Jr.) due to insufficient evidence," Smith County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Bobby Garmon said in April.

Detectives determined Young had died of a gunshot wound several days before his body was found. According to a Tyler Morning Telegraph story in 1999, the original arrest warrant affidavit stated Masters believed Young stole several hundred dollars from his home during a Super Bowl party. The original warrant said a friend of Masters said Young would "get what was coming to him."

Other articles from the time of the homicide indicate the victim was indicted for selling crack to an undercover Tyler police office and was wanted on several felony warrants. The investigation also revealed blood in a vehicle that Masters was seen driving at the time.

Masters was arrested in 2008 in Fort Worth for his involvement in the robberies, which he committed after he finished serving a six-year prison term for pleading guilty to possession of methamphetamines in 1999, according to Tyler Morning Telegraph archives.

Garmon said after the defendant was released from jail, Masters left East Texas and was living under a bridge in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with a group of homeless people. It was at that time that Masters began robbing banks in the Fort Worth area, Garmon said.

Staff Writer Kenneth Dean contributed to this story.
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